Helps You Work, Rest and Play


It happens every so often to most of us, I suppose. I went shopping yesterday, having run out of trousers which I didn’t have to undo when I sat down. It was then I had to admit that I’d gone up a size. A year of not walking to-and-from the station, going into town, walking to work and then walking to-and-from Marks&Spencer Simply Food (this is just not any sandwich bar…) has taken it’s toll on the waistline.

Substituting endless worry and rowing with endless cups of Starbuck Latte (extra shot) and never-ending packets of Foxes Whipped Creams biscuits (Sinfully Strawberry)  has inevitably meant I’ve gone from a Grande Regular in the trouser department to a Venti Short (yes, it seems even my legs have shortened).

Yes I’ve often sat here on my Apple iMac Desk Top computer (iThink, therefore iMac) and shared with you my concerns with my weight, but this was the first tangible evidence that something has gone awry. It all came to a head, as it were, when I had a reaction to my new pills. The Docs, in their wisdom took me off Warfarin and put me onto something called Clopidogrel, which sounds more like Bill & Ben’s (BBC1, weekdays at 3.45) name for their pet spaniel than a drug, but apparently these were the pills to rid my brain of the blood clots that have been giving me all the fally-over-sicky problems.

I suffered an allergic reaction to the new course of tablets which manifested itself as a swelling. In fact several swellings. Swellings in very uncomfortable places. The only plus-side was it enabled me to use one of my very favourite one-liners on my doctor. When she (yup, she) asked me what I’d like her to do, I retorted “Take the pain away and leave the swelling”. Nothing. Not a titter.

And that’s as good as it got.

Now, when you’re starting to outgrow your jeans, and your favourite pieces of anatomy are expanding like a couple of GU After dark hot chocolate souffle  (now £2.00 @ Sainsburys ) something’s gotta give.

The chaffing was something shocking. It made sitting in my luxuriant DFS leather sofa (SALE ends Bank Hoiliday Monday)  somewhat painful. Watching your favourite shows on your Sony Bravia (Colour Like No Other) with your body held at an angle of 27 degrees in a vain attempt to easy the throbbing and the scraping from your zipper is not what I had in mind (nor indeed had The Incumbent) when we moved in together.

So, as I say, something had to happen, and three things did: New strides (size to your discretion); a return to the comfort of blood-thinning, dizziness-inducing Warfarin; and a family size tub of Sudcrem (Sooths and Protects).  Splash it all over. Or is that Brut ?

Now that things have calmed down, as it were, I return to my trawling of the news agencies and notice that the twin brains of Rio Ferdinand and Katie Price have been cleared of blatant advertising of Snickers bars on Twitter. Its the thin end of the wedge, made for financial gain and poorly disguised as genuine Tweets to their “fans” (never has the word Twits been more apt).

I suppose Rio and Katie benefited from cash payments and probably a year’s supply of Mars Inc products. There’ll be snickers coming out of Jordan’s arse, which I suspect wouldn’t be a novelty for her. Anyway, the whole practice of subliminal advertising, product placement or any breaches of the codes of the Advertising Standards Authority is surely wrong and immoral, especially when such “adverts” will be seen by the young and vulnerable.

Anyway, I’m off to drive down to town in the RAV4 (which has seen better days, to be honest) to see what I can pick up for lunch at Waitrose (Quality food, Honestly priced). It really is my favourite place and there is, of course, ample free parking.

Simples

Horse Feathers


Whenever I have thought about getting a pet for myself and the incumbent Mrs B, a gee gee has never really sprung to mind. I know they’re lovely animals and all that, but you could never sit on the sofa watching a weepie with a 3/4 Arab laying at your feet, or send your 15 hand Palomino round to Mr Singh’s to pick up the Grauniad on a sunday morning (that’ll be after they adopt Mr Murdoch’s 7-day publishing ruse, which they surely will), and keeping a(nother) stallion in the the house would play havoc with The Incumbent’s carpets.

No a horse is not for us, and even if it was we couldn’t afford one.  I mean have you seen the price of one ? And it’s not if there’s anywhere you can just hire one or loan one out.

Oh , hang on a minute, there is !

It seems Rebekarhhh Wade loaned a nag from the Old Bill. There is a (very) little-known scheme in which the boys in Blue lend out their old dobbins to selected members of society to ride them ragged and return them in poor health in the twilight years of their lives, just before poor old horsey snuffs it – as happened in this case with Wade’s borrowed nag called Raisa (which would also explain what happened to Mrs Gorbachev).

Rebekah (left) and Raisa (née Gorbachev)

As an aside, yes I know Rebbbekah pretends she’s married now and her name is now Brooks, but she says a lot of things and pretends much, so I have no reason to believe her when she says she’s married any more than I believe her when she says she knows nothing about phone hacking. And anyway, who’d really marry that ? Yeuch.

According to The Telegraph “Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe expressed his surprise at the arrangement saying there was a lengthy waiting list of people who wanted to re-home former police horses.” But then again few in that lengthy waiting list have furnished the boys in blue with massive wads of cash for privileged info like Rebekahkaka and her mates have. At least I would hope not. There is a lengthy queue of hacks, Masons and MPs waiting to donate sackloads of bunce to plod in return for preferential treatment, of course.

The paper also added that when the horse was returned by Wade (who, funny enough pretends to be married to a racehorse trainer) “Raisa was regarded by officers from Mounted Branch to be in a poor but not serious condition.” Perhaps her “husband” didn’t have any spare nags lying around to loan to his “wife”, nor did he have time to look after the beast properly.

But I suppose if mass, consistent and organized bribing of public officers can’t get you the last few miserable years of a working horse’s existence, what does it get you (apart from an enormous pay-off and the unflinching backing of one of the most powerful men in business) ?

But money, mass corruption, animal cruelty, and fraud aside, a horse has never been for me. When I was a kid my mother would always turn on The Horse of the Year Show to watch Harvey Smith and David Broom, resplendent in their red hunting outfits take their mounts over the jumps at Olympia, or Wembley or maybe Hickstead, ably commentated on by the BBC’s Raymond Brooks Ward (or Raymond Wade Ward as he was known in our house). “C’mo-o-o-n Da-a-a-vid” he would shout though the mic. Which was odd because Princess Anne was in the ring at the time. But who knows what he was thinking of ?

But while mum was jumping up and down during the jump off against the clock, my brother and I were waiting for the gee gee to slam on the anchors and the jockey vault over the handlebars into the wall/hedge/water below. It was our only enjoyment gleaned from the event. We didn’t want the horses harmed, but cared little for the powdered ponces sat astride them.

A similar thing happened when I watched War Horse last night. The lead actor was riding the eponymous hero through the field when they approached a stone wall. The horse came to a sudden halt, through its rider up and over, through the air and eventually onto his arse. I didn’t want the horse hurt, I just wanted the rider to fly though the air, miss the wall, hit the camera full in the lens, shattering metal and glass, which then speared Steven Spielberg, the writer (one can only assume there was one) and the producers of this shite into each other and impaled them all onto a barn door behind. The rest of the cast crew and horses could then mount (geddit??) an asserted and brutal attack on all those who forced such a woeful excuse of a movie onto the general public.

“What’s that, Joey ? You’ve solved the German codes and discovered Uranium ?”

War Horse is a children’s book adapted for the big screen. I just don’t know who it was adapted for ? There are so many “homages” to old movies (Lawrence of Arabia, Gone with the Wind, Lassie Drop Dead) which will surely be lost on the kids. Meanwhile any adults watching (and I include The Incumbent and I) will be bemused in the hokey storyline, Dick Van Dyke accents, Teletubbies sets and crow-barred emotions that the temptation to throw horse excrement is tempered only by the site of so much of it on screen already (both literally and figuratively.)

SPOILER ALERT – ISH

I’m convinced you will take my word for it and save your well-earned cash by not bothering to go see this movie (like WWI itself, it never seems to want to end), but just in case you ignore my advice I shall take you though the final scene:

After the end of the first war, we’re back in Blighty , Devon (apparently), which is indicated by the huge red sky, piercing evening sunlight with the embers of Atlanta burning in the background. Joey (our horsey hero) is back home after his labours, and surrounded by his fiends and family: Albert, Ted, Rose, Uncle Sandy, Ricky, Old Shep and Bernard Cribbens. All of a sudden Skippy and Flipper hove into view and tell Joey the whereabouts of Lee Van Cleef’s buried treasure.  Everyone hugs and laughs and Albert marries Jenny Agutter who, in a moment of sobriety, has forgotten to take her clothes off for this scene.

The End

Or it may as well be.

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Up in Smoke


Since my little episode in the summer – when I hit the deck like the GB’s baton in the 400m relay – I’ve been like the Olympic Flame: never going out. Well, hardly ever. But “hardly ever going out” isn’t the end of one of my favourite jokes, so we’ll make do with never going out. Ok?

The route for the Olympic Torch has been announced this morning and, for better or worse, the good people or Dartford won’t be within either a javelin or a stone’s-throwing range of the runners and the flame. Good thing really cos The Incumbent has been practicing her aim with both. If a procession of tracksuit-clad locals and micro-celebrities were to jog past the Potting Shed, a violent salvo of objects, once destined for eBay, would be launched in their general direction. She may manage to cop someone of the stature of a Floella Benjamin or a Jim Davidson around the earhole with an old ornament, causing considerable damage.  But you can never be too sure of a direct hit, so it’s best the entourage stays well away from the neighbourhood.

Since we failed to secure even a single child’s ticket for the egg-and-spoon race, the London 2012 experience is not one to be enjoyed in our house. Coupled with my failure to get a job with the Olympic organization’s photo-team, mention of The Games is strictly verboten around here. (Although we are only assuming I didn’t get the job, me having not received a single word either way from the interviewers. Rude fvckers.)

Whenever there’s a news item about next year’s event, or Seb Coe’s beaming face appears on tv, the station is immediately switched off or over – even if it means watching another autopsy on Channel 4 (have they not got any other ideas?). The whole shambles/con (delete where applicable) over the ‘legacy’ and the football stadia, and the ‘affordable housing’ and the ticket prices has really left a nasty taste in the mouth, so we won’t be joining in the fun, if you don’t mind (I bet that’s come as a shock to you, hasn’t it?)

So no runners past the Potting Shed. No cheering-on of the torch by the farmhands. The locals at The Berchtesgaden Arms will not have the chance to wave the flag of St George in celebration of the flame’s progress. They’ll have to save their celebratory bender and Sieg Heil session until the Stephen Lawrence accused get off again.

Casting a cursory glance at the route I think I notice the joggers won’t be taking the torch around neither Tottenham nor Croydon. Probably for the best, I suppose. I think they’ve had enough of flames for a while. That bloke in the furniture shop has only just sat down after giving all those emotional news interviews. It’d be nice to give him a rest for a while.

While we’re on fire-related moans and groans: Can’t we now take this opportunity to ban fireworks altogether? It’s too early to know what really caused the horrors on the M5 at the weekend, but can we not make use of the suspicion by outlawing bonfires and fireworks once and for all? If we can prove they are harmful to the environment, I’d gladly reinforce my immaculate green-credentials in an effort to rid us all of the noise, the smoke and the smell.

It used to be that you’d only see and hear these bloody things on, or around November 5th.  In 1605 Guy (Guido) Fawkes and a bunch of his catholic mates tried to blow up Parliament. He got caught and the ‘gunpowder plot’ failed. We’ve been celebrating his capture/mourning his failure (delete where applicable) ever since. All well and good, I suppose. Most countries have a yearly festival or celebration day when the fireworks are rolled out. The French have Bastille Day, the day every year they give thanks for not being invaded by the Germans (again). Then there’s the 4th of July, commemorated by Brits the world over as the day we finally let the yanks out in the world on their own. A bit like sending an annoying spotty teenager off to college and getting the box room back. Years later he returns, now owning IBM and degree in shooting people, but the peace and quiet was nice while it lasted.

I digress.

But now we not only have to start dodging rockets and catherine wheels around 5th November, but we now have to listen to them over Christmas, New Year, Easter, Yom Kippur, Epiphany, Lent, Diwali, the  X-Factor results, Downton Abbey finales, in fact any and every single celebration that someone somewhere feels they need to enjoy. I’m all in favour of a multicultural, multi-faith country where all are welcomed and encouraged to live as diverse and existence as is possible. But why-oh-why-oh-daily-mail do all these festivities have to come with sodding fireworks ? Maurice, the rather nervous dog next door has shellshock – they now feed him on valium and St John’s Wort. There’s a pall of smoke hanging over the lower paddock, making it look like Kabul after the big beardy naughty boys have been about.

They banned smoking on the top deck of a bus and the left hand side of the cinema; they stopped us from riding a motorcycle without a helmet; had an amnesty on handguns; they even banned Tom&Jerry from my tv (presumably to make room for a series on human dissection on Channel 4). Surely there’s a decent case to be made against these rockets and missiles which kill, harm, mutilate and maim so many every year ? I have nothing against blowing up parliament, and happy to raise a glass to the Guido and his mates for having a pop at it. But is blowing up each other, distressing our pets and covering motorways with thick smoke really the way forward ? What if we restrict it to one huge re-enactment every year, underneath parliament, using live ammo. And hope for the best ?

Or the worst. (delete where applicable).

Greaves’ Rules: Once More With Feeling


Ok. There are only so many time I can post this. This may be the third time, but judging by tonight it’s clearly not getting through.

I make no apology for boring stupid again those of you who I’ve droned on to for years about Greaves’ Rules. But for the uninitiated, (and there seem to be a lot of them out there judging by tonight’s performance), here are William Greaves’—scholar, journalist and right-hand opening bat— cast iron rules of how to conduct yourself in one of her majesty’s boozers.
So, with appropriate acknowledgement to Bill, and the Today newspaper (formerly of this parish) I present to you :

GREAVES’ RULES

1.When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2.This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3.In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

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“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

4.The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5.Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6.For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7.Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8.When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9.In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10.Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion.

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Is Vicks There ?


It would seem that spring has finally sprung and the first indications that we may be out of the misery of that long, cold winter are finally tippie-toeing their way up the garden path. Not that I’ve seen much of it as I greeted the first sunshine of the new-ish year from the puddle of sweat and snot that was my sofa in the potting shed, surrounded by an industrial box of tissues, (for my nose) a litre of Benylin, tubes and packets of lozenges of varying flavours and a collection of Vicks nasal inhalers which, at a moment’s notice, I could stuff up one nostril or the other , releasing its sweet menthol vapour up and into my hooter.

Yep, I’ve been laid-up all weekend with one of those colds I used to blame on air-conditioning in various newspaper and magazine offices, on the snivelly little herberts who I would encounter during a day in the office, or the mucus-sprinklers on the train home in the evening.

This time however, as I’ve not set foot in Fleet Street for a few weeks, I cannot blame anyone for my illness except Allah, The Incumbent or the flock of pigs in the sty outside the potting shed window. But since none of the above either exist, have a cold or have come into close contact with me recently (any order you like)  I am an Assange short of a fall-guy.

I am assuming, of course, that what I have been suffering from is merely a common cold. There could be other, more worrying explanations. January is traditionally the time of year when I tip “Behemoth” on my Timothy Whites bathroom scales and when I decide to deprive myself of all things tasty and goodly in an attempt to lose the odd 50 pounds. It’s my own variation of the Atkins Diet which has worked so well for me in the past but which also, it has to be said, has led me to my current position of staring down the wrong end of 16 stone. Consequently I’ve undertaken to abstain from anything in the fridge which fills me up, satisfies my palate, or looks vaguely interesting. All except anything that comes in tins or bottles with Alc 5.0% Vol written on the side, of course. In short I’ve been starving myself and it’s left me, well…starving. Thus I’ve left myself a little run down, and hence the onset of the lurgy. Listless, lifeless but not, I’m afraid to say, snotless.

All the jobs I had pencilled-in for myself have gone by the wayside:- painting the spare room, washing the car and trimming the Incumbent’s bush will all have to wait til I feel a little better. The aforementioned pigs have been left un-sheared, I’ve been both unable and unwilling to milk the chickens, and the cows will have to go pluck themselves. I may yet to have got the hang of this country lark, but I’m beginning to wonder if all this mucking around with livestock may have led to my current predicament. Have I contracted Cow Flu?  A touch of Foot and Mouth maybe ? The goats look mangey enough to be capable of spreading anything to anyone. That’s the last time I eat any of them, lo-carb or no lo-carb.

All this couldn’t have come at a worse time. This weekend saw two of the more notable events of the year so far: The release of True Grit at the cinema and Long Lane U14 ladies vrs Tottenham Hotspur U14 in the regional final of the London Cup. I was due to go to both, but could attend neither.

(If you don’t want to know the result of the football look away now)

Reports from the ground (Dogshit Park North) indicate that my youngest daughter played a blinder (god, she reminds me of me) although she was cautioned for telling a team-mate to “fuck off and shut up” (she also reminds me of her mother) but however well they played the plucky South Londoners succumbed to their larger North London rivals by 4 lucky goals to 1.

Rooster Cogburn and friends will have to wait til next week, though I already know the result of that one.

So since Friday afternoon I’ve been confined to barracks in my best pyjamas and silk dressing gown, plonked in front of the Six Nations Rugby, Boadwalk Empire and anything else which tv land wanted to send me. All of this without bothering the scorers in the booze unit scorebox, as I couldn’t even taste a pint of beer if you laced it with Cillit Bang. Nosebuds and tastebuds kaput, this was one miserable weekend.

Looking out the window, down the track to the lane at the bottom of the lower paddock, I could see whom the Daily Telegraph would describe as “revellers” as they made their way to-and-from the Liniment and Poultice and the other pubs, drinking my beer as they went on their merry way. What a depressing sight they made. The fire in my throat was screaming out to be doused yet the only liquid nearby was that filling my nasal passages. And I wasn’t about to drink that.

Then some light relief from an unexpected quarter. One of the younger human mammals who inhabit these here parts announced he and his hooded pals were making their inaugural visit to a pub (to much sniggering from the back of the potting shed).

“Well just make sure you buy a round, don’t go and buy individual drinks.”
“What do you mean round?” he asked.

Oh dear, we were starting from a low point. This might be fun.

“Well before you get to the bar, make up your minds who’s turn it is and he then buys a drink for all of you.That’s known as a round Then you take it in turns through the night to each buy a round. Don’t each buy your own drink. It’s a dead give-away. You’ll look like students” I waited for the information to be processed. He was clearly at too early a stage to introduce him to Greaves’ Rules.

“How many of you?” I enquired.
“Six”
“Oh, that means you’ll have six rounds then. Six drinks. Six Pints
“Yeah!?!” he barked, indignantly, spotting the doubt in my voice that he and his mates would make it past three.
“Ok. Good” if he was happy, I was happy, while secretly imagining the state of them all rolling up the hill later.

He continued with his line of questioning. There was stuff that had clearly been worrying him.
“Now when you go into a pub…”
“…er…y..e..s” I was dreading what was coming.
“What do you ask for?”
“Pardon?”
“What do you ask for to drink? Or is there a list?”

I leaned over, collected my menthol inhaler from the table and took a huge blast on it. Partly because my nose was blocked and partly to give me time to compose myself.

“Yes…YES (coughing), YES, there’s a list. Ask for the beer list. From the Biertre-D, as he’s known”.
My little friend could tell I was struggling not to laugh out loud.
“No, come on, really what do you ask for ?”
“Just ask for six pints of lager, and if they ask you which one, ask them what they have. Then pick one”

This conversation went on for some little time before Doc, Happy, Bashful and the rest turned up to collect Dopey to take him to the pub. I, in my role as Sneezy was left to my little childish chuckley thoughts on the sofa. Wouldn’t it be great if pubs really did have a Beer Waiter ? Anyway, suffice to say our would-be debutant drinkers fell at the first hurdle, having been refused entry to any pub in the area on the grounds that most of them looked 12 years old. Oh well, it’s one of those rites-of-passage things that happens to us all. I suppose they ended up asking some bigger boy to buy them a litre of cider out of an off license, or stood on shadowy street corners smoking Jamaican Woodbines.

And now, as I’m on my way to making a full recovery, and as it’s Valentine’s Night, I shall treat the Incumbent to a warm bottle of light ale in The Shovel. I might even let her have first pick from the Pork Scratchings list. If she behaves herself.

The Field Trip


They once took us on a school field trip to Greenwich Park to look at the observatory. Thirty 12-year-old kids bored out of our minds with the solar system, although excited to think we were lightyears away from home, when in reality it was more like 10 miles. Looking back on it we must have learnt something, and we must have behaved ourselves because next year we went to London Zoo.

We had a food fight in the Zoo’s lecture theatre and the school was banned from ever returning. Why would you take 13 year-olds to a zoo an stick them in a lecture theatre ? You wouldn’t wanna take them to see the lions of the gorillas or anything, would you ?

Fortunately for them, Kendall wasn’t on that trip. He was busy in a  Montgomery County, Alabama. The bloke’s a natural. Or rather he’s unprocessed and raw.

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